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Live / stage review

Lau, Abbeydale Picture House, 29 Nov

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The three members of Lau huddled together in the middle of the sizeable stage at the Abbeydale Picture House do not look like they have the capacity to fill the gigantic theatre hall with any sort of performance.

Their setup - a guitar, an accordion and a violin - does not seem to bear weight against the gargantuan pillars and crumbling arches of the venue. For a few seconds before it all starts, the suspicion arises that the house will win against these modestly-dressed musicians and their economic instrumentation. The space is simply too big for the music we are about to hear.

If it was never new, and it never gets old, then it's a folk song

But then of course, the impression is blown away when the trio start their two-part set for Flying Donkey Events, comprised of both old and new arrangements. Quite obviously they know these stages, they've walked these boards before. Since they started out in 2005 they've mastered a sound that is both intimate and grandiose, heartfelt and epic, suited to the monstrous acoustics of the Picture House as well as to earphones on the bus ride home.

"If it was never new, and it never gets old, then it's a folk song," wrote the Coen brothers in their film, Inside Llewyn Davis. I found myself coming back to this quote over the course of a performance that blended a traditional, bare-bones approach to the genre with a touch of experimentation reminiscent of Sigur Rós and Radiohead.

But still, Lau are a folk band, and a good one at that. They introduce only enough flair and detours from the classic sound to keep the audience on their toes as they try to decide whether they've heard these tunes before, whether they are fragments of their collective memory, and whether they have been growing up with them all these years. Those feelings are enough to fit a venue ten times larger than this.

Máté Mohos

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